THE country’s feeble fight against endemic corruption shows no signs of new energy, with six lands officers this week getting a mere slap on the wrist in the form of transfers amid serious corruption allegations.
Candid Comment by Stewart Chabwinja
This follows September media revelations that seven Lands ministry officers from various provinces where under investigation for lining their pockets by demanding cash from land-seekers.
Maybe, just maybe, the authorities would descend heavily on the culprits, through due process, thus sending out the message they would not brook corruption, perennial optimists must have hoped. After all, Lands minister Douglas Mombeshora had warned his ministry had adopted zero tolerance towards corruption in land allocations.
“… depending on the gravity of the allegations, the accused member is immediately suspended from duty to pave way for investigations,” Mombeshora recently said.
Alas, as if the corruption plague was merely an affliction contracted at the lands officers’ current work stations government has redeployed the officers to other ministries, under the guise that the transfer exercise was routine “because overstaying at one place is not healthy”.
That should raise a few laughs, especially the “overstaying” bit, if it was not a serious matter! But sadly — for corruption subverts formal processes and sabotages economic progress, among other toxic effects — the Lands ministry’s superficial sanctions are in keeping with the country’s softly-softly approach to combating graft.
This sends the wrong signal, especially to public sector employees, that if you engage in corruption you can escape with just a transfer or redeployment.
Last year, 33 traffic cops at Avondale police station were transferred to other bases for alleged “intolerable levels of crime”, eliciting a public outcry that the bribe-taking officers should have been suspended or fired to send out a strong message against venality.
Despite his sporadic anti-corruption fulminations, President Robert Mugabe can’t seem to work up some enthusiasm to tackle corruption head-on. Certainly the mission does not appear to whet his appetite in the same manner foreign travel, fighting Western opponents and the opposition, or speechifying, does. The evidence is there for all to see.
Top government officials fingered in corruption, some of whose ill-gotten wealth has been exposed, remain untouchable, with some even rewarded with more influential ministerial posts.
No less than former South African President Mbeki warned Mugabe Zimbabwe’s development was being stifled by government officials demanding bribes from investors. Poor Mbeki was whistling the wind; Mugabe simply refused to act.
The Auditor-General’s detailed annual reports whose contents expose corruption have largely met the same fate; culprits nonchalantly maintain a business-as-usual approach. Hence the country’s litany of sensational corruption cases that have gone unpunished.
Still, expect the clampdown corruption to be recycled as an election gimmick as we head towards the 2018 general elections.